It seems the universe is expanding. So they say. And we, oblivious as flies on an a train, are apparently being hurtled about space at breakneck speed. It boggles the mind. And yet, my own experience, that which I can observe, is, in fact, quite the obverse. My sense is that we are coming closer together while not moving at all. Surely it's a trick. They must do it with mirrors.
The world seems, in fact, to be shrinking at a heady pace! You are not even alone when you are alone. Friends and family are buzzing and dinging away in your pockets demanding incessant contact. You travel in a vibrating, jingling group!
I remember a time - yes, yes, trudging to school three miles through snowdrifts uphill both ways - but listen.
I remember when people could spend a whole evening debating a fact. These debates could get quite heated! Did victorious warriors in days of yore really blow off steam by playing soccer-like games with the heads of defeated enemies? Is a banana really an herb? Were bagpipes originally made of the whole skin of a dead sheep? (The answer to these questions is yes, by the way). Well, perhaps not these questions exactly, but you get the picture. Today, before conjecture can even get a toehold, some killjoy puts an end to it by googling!
In the past, people looked forward to sharing tales of travel when they got back home. They invited friends over to view their slides! Now, thanks to Facebook, they have nothing to tell when they get back from their vacation. And no pictures show. Their kids have been posting all along the way. They're yesterday's news by the time claim their luggage! Mind you, you wont hear me complaining about missing those long evenings of travel slides.
Yes, there was a time, when traveling to distant shores, you could pick up interesting and unusual gifts for friends and family. Now you have to be a pretty savvy traveler to seek out items that are not readily accessible locally, or at least online.
And the cuisines of the world - once one of the sensuous perquisites of travel. Now every interesting and exotic morsel, every herb and every spice, is practically knocking on your door. Gone are the days when salt, pepper and garlic salt were the only condiments on offer in the small town grocery stores in remote, northern places like Canada. (Don't we all pinpoint a recipe in time, when we see garlic salt or onion salt on the list of ingredients?). The world, once so various, so beautiful, so new, has come trotting right into our kitchens, is ensconced in our spice drawers, elbowing into our freezers, parking in our pantries! Good heavens! We can even pronounce quinoa, and gnocchi, and bruschetta!
Of course, it's marvelous that you don't have to go to Mexico for a great burrito, if there is such a thing. Paella has broken the free of Spain. Pirogies, sushi, and let's not forget pizza are at our fingertips, or at least in every food court.
As Canadians we cling to butter tarts and poutine as distinctly Canadian. And they are. But open any Canadian cookbook, and the world spills out. And we should be proud of this. Canada has welcomed the world and absorbed its culinary wonders. It's part of what we love about living here. I'm not complaining.
But it is ironic that we are being crowded by the world while the universe is expanding!
There is much to embrace in this brave new world, but also a sense of mixed blessing. Yes, we can carry hundreds of books in our pockets, but is it a loss that those who follow won't know what a book is - will never have never seen or touched or smelled one? We realize the miracle that so many books can be compacted in such a small device, but what will their perception be? Maybe we are indeed hurtling through time and space at breakneck speed, hanging on for dear life,
But every now and then, a surprise pops up, a relic of a different culture, a forgotten pleasure, to remind us that we can still be amazed by a neighbour who hailsfrom away.
I speak of the popover.
As children in Minnesota, my siblings and I often parked ourselves in front of the glass window of the oven to watch the magic of a blob of batter blowing itself up to amazing proportions to emerge, crisp and hollow ready to be cracked open and filled with butter and jam, or chicken salad or whatever else - true culinary legerdemain! They were common in our neighborhood but nonetheless always amazing.
But when I popped a tray of popovers in Canada, my neck of it anyway, I was confronted by perplexed stares. Heads turned this way and then that, like my dog's does when I try talk sense to her. What is this popover of which you speak? Is it like an eclair? A cream puff? Do you stuff it with whipped cream? Is it like Yorkshire Pudding? Do you serve it with beef? And, although it is somewhat like both of these things, it is not really like either. It is what it is. It is a popover! And I must say, it's a happy surprise to be the bearer of a culinary secret that has somehow not been found swimming in the mainstream.
And so, without further ado, I present The Popover:
Heat your oven to 450 - convection if you have it. You will want the rack low in the oven.
There is such a thing as a popover pan. I have one. My mother used Pyrex muffin cups. A muffin tin will do the trick. Butter it well. A nonstick cooking spray works just fine.
The batter is familiar. Rather like a crepe batter.
1 Cup of milk
1 Cup of flour
1 tablespoon of melted butter
1 teaspoon of salt
Whisk the ingredients together. There doesn't appear to be any particular order. Just get it done.
When the oven is hot, pour the batter evenly into six receptacles - whatever you are using. Place in the oven.
They will cook for 35 minutes. About half way, lower the heat to 375 so they don't over brown.
When they are done, immediately remove from the tins and vent them. This means simply poke a hole in them so the steam escapes. This trick keeps them crisp. Otherwise the internal steam will make them soft. Soft is not good.
Serve immediately - butter and jam is nice. They freeze well. Handy to have for a tasty, and rather showy sandwich!
That's it! Now we should be off in search of the next undiscovered delight! It's nice, is it not, to know that in spite of the onslaught of information about just about everything, there are still some hidden culinary gems lurking around corners to reward the intrepid seeker! Bon chance!